Norwegian Tough Girl and the Holy Grail

26 October 2001

So last night we took a trial run out into the real world. Mark and I drove to the video store and then I handled the ATM and stamp-buying while he made a quick swing through the grocery store for milk and chips. This really seems like it ought to have been no big deal. But every shift in position, every bump in the road, made my ribs scream at me. I lost Norwegian Tough Girl mode.

See, Tough Girl mode is where you hurt and you keep doing stuff anyway, although you're allowed to be sensible and not do things that hurt more than average. But Norwegian Tough Girl mode is when you convince yourself as well as the people around you that not only can you do stuff, the pain isn't important. Doesn't matter, really. You hurt, sure, but so what? (I'm sure other ethnicities have this, too. But I'm mostly familiar with it in my old Norwegian aunties and my middle-aged Norwegian cousins. And my mom and grandma, of course.) Well, I was doing great with that. Until I had to scrinch my side up to get in the car.

The problem with losing Norwegian Tough Girl mode, as opposed to Kenyan or Bengali or whatever other kind of Tough Girl mode one might have, is that when the blood goes out of a Norwegian's Tough Girl face, there aren't any other colors left. You may notice that the Kenyan or the Bengali or whoever looks a little ashy around the edges. But the Norwegian now has the "three days dead" look mastered. I would know.

But the Norwegian Tough Girl mode does not involve telling people you're tough. Under any circumstances. No, no. The only reason I can admit to the mode is that I was jarred out of it. My friend Jessi, clear back in my freshman year of high school, spent our first semester going on about how she was impervious to pain, how pain had no bearing on her. Then she moshed on the band trip. People who are 5-nothin', 88 pounds, should not mosh. (Actually, I'm not sure anybody should, but whatever.) She wrenched her neck and spent the rest of the trip saying things like, "M'ris, can you hand me my hairbrush? It's all the way on the other side of the nightstand...and I hurt too much to lean over...."

Ah was an oddly eventful day, actually, given that the trip described above was the big outing. We got Margaret Cho's newest special, wherein I learned that, "Lesbians love whale-watching." My dad always told me when I was little that I was to learn something new every day. So, you know. I'm taking your advice, Daddy.

Also, there were some very informative headlines on the tabloids, when I joined Mark in the supermarket check-out line. The Examiner promised, "You'll Be Shocked...Secret Behind Rush Limbaugh Going Deaf." Then, immediately below, the inset read, "Richard Simmons: Truth About My Love Life." Well, I am shocked. I never would have thought it of those two.

But my favorite was so reassuring. It promised me that some things genuinely never change, and that Americans still have an appreciation for the classics. At least, the Americans at the Sun do. They informed me that, "Holy Grail Found In Afghanistan! Taliban Tried To Destroy Precious Relic. Chalice Reveals America's Destiny -- And Yours!" This is so...constant, that someone is still concerned about the Holy Grail and who's got their Saracen mitts on it. I wouldn't have put this headline in a near-future SF story because I would have thought it would be expecting too much of the tabloid-writing public. I'm so glad to be wrong.

There was also some interesting thinking going on in my mailbox. I got the Victoria's Secret Christmas wish book, which featured all kinds of things. But I have to ask you: who goes catalog shopping for a $75,000/person safari? Especially in their underwear catalog? And who goes looking for a $12,500,000 bra at all? Or even for a "cheap" $350 one with Swarovski crystal? (Here's a heads up: if you're looking for a perfect Christmas present for me, it will not involve any rocks or crystalline structures for my breasts. Not even cheap ones. Unless, as Timprov suggested when I was ranting, it's a "grow your own crystal" bra set, where you have to put the crystal solution in, like in the science fairs in grade school...that might be kinda cool....)

I was a lucky idiot yesterday. I got a rejection from Glimmer Train on "Dark Thread." And I thought, "I would have expected them to reject it -- it's not that kind of thing at all. I'll send it to [another magazine] this time, it's more their kind of story." Got to my submission log and determined that I already had sent it to the other magazine, and that it was logged on their received subs page. Evidently I accidentally submitted it simultaneously to two publications and didn't send the story I'd intended to send to Glimmer Train out at all. Everything is straightened out now, but I was sore confused.

I also finished "An Attack of Conscience" (the brain-sucking performance artist story) and worked on the Not The Moose Book and on revisions to Reprogramming. And I got an actual student to tutor. Of course, she didn't have an actual question. She just wanted to see how it worked. But still, an actual little girl named Kiva in North Carolina was my tutoring student for fifteen minutes yesterday afternoon. It was a productive work day, all told.

I also finished reading back entries of Karina's journal, Spontaneous Things. I don't do that very much -- I did when I was first thinking about keeping Morphisms. I read all of Tropisms and all of Thought Experiment and all of Columbine's journal from when it was Scherzi and Sospiri (did not go back to the Alewife Bayou entries). Those helped me think about what journals could be and what I wanted mine to be. Then I tapered off reading back entries. I'd read a few when I found a new journal, to see if I generally liked the person's stuff, but definitely wouldn't read the whole archive. The thing is, though, sometimes it's really convenient to have something to read online. My ridiculous example is when I'm eating an apple with peanut butter. It's very hard for me to juggle the peanut butter, the apple, and the spoon while reading a book. But if I'm reading online, no problem. And I really like apples with peanut butter. So now the question is which archives to read next. Some people don't have convenient archives; others (Mary Anne!) have daunting archives. I don't know what I'll do. But it was sure fun to watch Karina discover freewriting.

On paper, to continue the haphazard nature of this entry, I've been reading different things...I tried to read two early James Morrow novels yesterday morning, and I'll be going back to them when I'm in a better mood. Because I just couldn't come up with any reason at all to keep reading them. The facts that I paid for them and James Morrow wrote them didn't seem like compelling ones at the time. So I read Christopher Fry's A Phoenix Too Frequent, which was rather slight but had (of course) beautiful language. I'd still prefer to read or see The Lady's Not For Burning or two or three of his other plays more in that vein, but sometimes we take what we can get, and as I believe the man is dead, this is one of those times. And then I read Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet, and our heroes triumphed in protecting Basidium while Horatio Q. Peabody got his comeuppance. As anyone named Horatio Q. Peabody is wont to do, in a children's SF novel from the 1950s. And then I started reading our Christopher Priest "Omnibus 2," which has Inverted World and Fugue for a Darkening Island in it. Timprov got it in the first blush of enthusiasm after The Prestige. So far Inverted World is quite readable -- it doesn't look like it will accomplish as much as The Prestige or disappoint as much as The Extremes, so that's something.

And last of all, I can sing again! Not everything I can usually sing -- I'm still missing the upper part of my range. So I have to choose my key judiciously. But I don't have to sound like Eartha Kitt any more. And I really never want to do that. I don't notice how much I sing until I can't for awhile. But now I can. So, rejoice. Me and Adam Duritz -- who's an alto himself, so I should be able to sing along with him -- are going to get some work done, I hope.

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